Its a sight I have seen too many times to count. The long stretch of land off the coast of Kapiti. I know it’s shape well, low at one end with its bumpy mountain ridge, rising to a peak before sloping back off down to the sea.
Sometimes it looks so close you feel like you could just reach out and touch it. Other times it is barely visible under the low lying cloud.
Today, I will be getting a different perspective, viewing the mainland from Kapiti Island. I am joined by my dad, brother and 4 year old nephew as we embark on our adventure with Kapiti Island Eco Experience
Arriving at the check in point, we are asked to check our bags for any rodents or insects. Raumati has an issue with Argentine ants which would cause a lot of damage if they made it onto the Island. After cleaning our shoes we climb onto the boat, but not before stopping to say hello to a little dog who visits lots of nature reserves tracking down rats.
It’s a fairly smooth crossing and some seagulls join us for the sailing across. The top of Kapiti is covered in a blanket of mist. I hope this clears. We are planning to walk to the summit and would love to see the view from up there. As we near Kapiti Island, the water changes. There is a very distinct line where the murky sage green changes to a deep blue.
Once on the island we make our way to the DOC shelter for an introduction and orientation to the island. Originally, New Zealand was a country with no mammals except bats. With no predators, our bird life was abundant, with many species living on the forest floor, rather than high up in the trees. When the Maori arrived, they brought kunekune pigs and dogs with them. These were the first introduced mammals. Then the European settlers came bringing many other mammals and predators that would have a huge impact on our native birds. It didn’t take long before a quarter of our bird life was wiped out.
Resolution Island in Fiordland was set up as a reserve, but being so close to the mainland, rats were able to swim across. Kapiti Island is 6Km from the mainland, a distance that rats can’t swim, making it an ideal reserve. It was farmland up until 1897 and in the early 1900 it became a sanctuary.
Today you can visit this Island, or even stay the night (need to add this to the bucket list!) and experience what New Zealand bird life would have been like many years ago. The forest really does come to life. There are so many sounds, and not just bird song; the rhythmic call of the ocean, Tieke (saddlebacks) rustling in the leaf litter looking for their meal, the Kereru (wood pigeon) as they defy gravity and somehow manage to fly through the air. All these sounds combine to make up natures concert.
Kapiti Island is 3km wide by 10km long and 550m high. There are several walks you can do on the Island, but most people choose to walk to the summit, which is what we do. We take the Wilkinson Track which is 3.8km one way. It’s a 2 hours walk to the summit and we have a 4 year old in the party. 20 minutes in he is telling us how tired he is and that he needs to be carried. So we distract him with questions and pointing out birds and telling him that it not too far to go (A hour and a half isn’t long is it?)
We see a lot of birds on our walk; Tui, Kereru, Tieke, Kakariki and Weka, but my favourite was the little North Island Robin. They are quiet little birds but I would see some movement out of the corner of my eye and turn to find one, quietly watching us or looking for food on the forest floor.
The forest is gorgeous and I notice a change in the vegetation as we climb higher and higher. Near the base it’s more scrubby, then it starts to look a bit tropical with lots of palm like trees and then it turns into beautiful ancient looking forest. That type of forest, the trees have really have a presence, like they have weathered many seasons and have many stories to tell. I love this type of forest. I also become aware of the different layers in the forest. I have never really thought about it before, but with no pests to eat young seedlings, there are some very distinct layers of small saplings being shelters by tall mature trees.
As we near the top, the mist sets in. And the rain. And, it’s absolutely stunning! Our skipper had told us he likes the island the best in the rain and mist and I now understand why. The colours of the forest become so vibrant. It’s enchanting, slightly eerie and so incredibly peaceful.
We make it to the top and not a view in sight. It’s a bit disappointing, but the walk in the mist was well worth it! We sit down for a well earnt picnic lunch. We are joined by a couple of weka’s who are hopeful we will share some of our lunch with them.
We start the decent and about two thirds of the way down, the birds start sounding very loud. And then I see why. Food has been put in the feeding station and the Tui and Hihi are filling the forest with their song.
We make it back to the beach with about an hour to spare, so spend some time skipping stones and relaxing in the sun (yes the sun was out, but the mist was still hanging around the summit) This has been a great day trip.
I am so proud of my nephew Lachie. He walked ALL the way to the top and all the way down. On his own. He didn’t need to be carried once. What a champ!